Sep 19, 2019
Production Team Behind Feature Doc Paradise will Receive a $25,000 Grant, Artistic Mentorship, an Environmental Advisor, and Community Impact Consultation
San Francisco, CA – SFFILM announced today the winner of the second annual SFFILM Vulcan Productions Environmental Fellowship. Together with its partners at Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions, SFFILM awarded $25,000 to filmmakers Karl Malakunas, Marty Syjuco, and Michael Collins for their documentary Paradise, which follows a group of environmental activists in the Philippines and their efforts to save the region’s natural resources from government corruption and corporate greed. The Paradise team will also receive a year of mentorship and services to support the development, production, and impact campaign for the film.
The SFFILM Vulcan Productions Environmental Fellowship is geared towards mid-career filmmakers with a feature documentary project in development or early production that focuses on pressing environmental or conservation issues. In addition to a $25,000 grant, the fellows will travel to San Francisco and Seattle to participate in filmmaking and environmental workshops and to cultivate connections within the entertainment industry. The program consists of three key components: a residency at SFFILM’s FilmHouse for artistic support and mentorship; guidance from a dedicated environmental advisor; and development of a community outreach campaign and educational plan. The fellowship will run from September 2019 through March 2020.
Paradise was selected from an open call for submissions by a committee of film and environmental experts that included Jannat Gargi, Head of Documentary Films at Vulcan Productions; Marjon Javadi, Senior Manager, Film Funds & Partnership at Doc Society; Lauren Kushner, Interim Director of Artist Development at SFFILM; Katie O’Reilly, adventure and lifestyle editor at Sierra Magazine; and Caroline von Kühn, former Director of Artist Development at SFFILM.
“We are thrilled to recognize filmmakers Karl Malakunas, Marty Syjuco, and Michael Collins for their documentary Paradise and their commitment to bringing this powerful and important story from the Philippines to global audiences,” said Ruth Johnston, General Manager of Vulcan Productions. “Our collaboration with SFFILM is designed to showcase rising filmmakers to tell crucial stories about our natural world, including the threats and solutions to save it. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for Paradise and the filmmaking team.”
“SFFILM Makers is thrilled to continue our partnership with Vulcan Productions and support the crucial early development stage of this documentary and elevate those telling stories about the people fighting so hard to protect our planet,” said Lauren Kushner, Interim Director of Artist Development at SFFILM. “It is exciting to see the ways in which so many filmmakers have continued to lead on the topics of the environment and conservation, and the strength of projects being development. Paradise is no exception, as Karl, Marty, and Michael are beautifully capturing this urgent story of destruction, resistance, and resilience.”
“We are extremely excited and appreciative to have this opportunity to develop Paradise with SFFILM and Vulcan Productions,” said director Karl Malakunas. “We feel very fortunate that we will be working with passionate mentors and advisors who are focused on making compelling films about the environment. The fellowship is a timely boost to the making of our film, as we move forward with urgency to tell the world a story about incredibly brave people performing heroic acts to save a beautiful part of our planet. Their battles are emblematic of a global struggle, with land defenders being killed in record numbers around the world as they strive to protect our ever-diminishing natural resources.”
Karl Malakunas, director; Marty Syjuco and Michael Collins, producers
A charismatic lawyer leads good men to their deaths, an ex-illegal logger seeks redemption, a grandmother politician defies assassination threats…Three environmental crusaders confront murder, betrayal, and their own demons as they are tested like never before in their battle to save an island paradise in the Philippines.
Karl Malakunas is an Australian journalist and filmmaker who has reported on conflicts, natural disasters, and political upheavals around the world for two decades. He is currently based in Hong Kong, as the Asia-Pacific Deputy Editor-In-Chief for the international news agency Agence France-Presse. Malakunas began making Paradise, his first feature film, while based in the Philippines as Manila Bureau Chief for AFP. An initial short film and essay on Palawan’s land defenders by Karl won a special merit at the 2018 Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Human Rights Awards. Malakunas is a 2019 Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program Grantee.
Originally from the Philippines, Marty Syjuco is a two-time Emmy-nominated filmmaker whose first film Give Up Tomorrow premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival where it won the Audience Award and Special Jury Prize. The film went on to win 18 awards and has been seen by over 50 million viewers worldwide. His second feature, Almost Sunrise won a CINE Golden Eagle Award, played theatrically at the IFC Center in NYC, and was nationally broadcast on PBS/POV for Veterans Day. His recent film Call Her Ganda was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award and was recently broadcast on POV’s 32nd season.
Michael Collins is an Emmy- and Grierson-nominated filmmaker and the founder of Thoughtful Robot, a film production company committed to telling stories that galvanize change. His recent film Almost Sunrise premiered at Telluride Mountainfilm in 2016 and has had 600+ screenings across the country, winning six major awards, including the Voice Award, and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Current-Affairs Documentary. Collins’s first film Give Up Tomorrow premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011 where it won the Audience Award and a Special Jury Prize for Best New Director, and went on to win a Britdoc Impact Award and a nomination for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism.
About Vulcan Productions
Vulcan Productions believes that storytelling can change the world. The company produces and distributes content that informs, inspires, and activates audiences – putting stories to work with far-reaching impact campaigns that advance new policies, shift individual behaviors, and contribute to significant institutional change. Its team includes both expert producers and seasoned impact strategists and movement builders. Leveraging platforms ranging from film and television to XR and other emerging media, Vulcan Productions’ content and campaigns are at the center of some of society’s most pressing challenges.
Vulcan Productions films include Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, Ghost Fleet, The Cold Blue, Netflix Original: The Ivory Game, the Sundance Special Jury Award-winner STEP, News & Documentary Emmy®-nominated Going to War, Girl Rising, Racing Extinction, the Academy Award®-nominated Body Team 12, and emerging media works including Ghost Fleet VR, X-Ray Fashion, Drop in the Ocean, and Guardians of the Kingdom. Films currently in production tell searing, eye-opening stories on issues including climate change, ocean health, public health, humanitarian disasters, criminal justice reform, and more. Follow Vulcan Productions (vulcanproductions.com) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
SFFILM is a nonprofit organization with a mission to champion the world’s finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. Presenter of the San Francisco International Film Festival, SFFILM is a year-round organization delivering screenings and events to more than 75,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 12,000 students and teachers annually. In addition to its public programs, SFFILM supports the careers of independent filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond with grants, residencies, and other creative development services. For more information visit sffilm.org.